A Twist on the Good Samaritan

by | Articles, Emotional Abuse | 49 comments

The Good Non-Believer

There was once a Christian woman who got married. Shortly after her wedding day, she was attacked by her husband. He took her dignity and reputation, shamed her, blamed her, treated her like his property, and left her half-dead, alone in her home.

Luckily, a small group leader from church was on her way down the same road of marriage, but when she saw the woman, she angled across to the other side muttering, “If she only had done things differently in her marriage, she wouldn’t be in the mess she’s in. She obviously didn’t pay attention in Bible Study all those years. She should know that some women are called to suffer. She ought to count it all joy, but instead she is wallowing in self-pity. How selfish. What a spiritual mess.

Whereupon she flung a Bible over her shoulder at the woman, hitting her in the head.

Then an elder from church showed up, but he also avoided the woman saying, “I’ve heard some concerning things about that woman from her husband. She’s an angry gossip who doesn’t respect him or submit to him properly. She makes up stories about him, trying to get him into trouble when he is as godly of a man as I’ve ever known. I’ve even heard she withholds her body from him, and he is so patient with her. He’s the real victim, here. Look at her carry on. What a crazy fake. She stirs up discontent everywhere she goes. She won’t repent of her rebelliousness. Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. She obviously doesn’t know God. Maybe she’ll just go away now.

And he also hurled a Bible at her, hitting her in the heart.

A non-believer traveling the same road came upon the woman. When she saw the woman’s condition, she stopped.

She listened. She believed. She wept.

Then she helped the woman to her feet and brought her to a secular counselor who told her that what she experienced was real, and her wounds were deep and would take time to heal. She helped her see the lies that had kept her from growing up and becoming all that God intended her to be. The non-believers came together and paid for the therapy, and they helped her children, too.

What do you think? Which one was the real neighbor to the woman hurt by hidden abuse in her “Christian” home and church?

Everyone could see it was the unbeliever.

“Go and do the same.”

That is what Jesus said. And those who know and love and follow Him – will.

P.S. If you are looking for a support group of women who love God, who know exactly what it’s like to be left on the side of the road by legalistic religious people, consider joining the Flying Free support community.  It’s full of women who truly love the Lord and truly love their neighbor (that’s you!). You get access to courses and expert workshops and weekly coaching specifically designed to help you heal from the pain of crying out and not being heard. Plus, so much more. Hop on the waiting list!


  1. Hilary

    Well this resonates with me so much. An abused little girl with an abused mother, now married to an abuser, and sister to another. I am just as you described compassionate and strong, married my ‘dream boat’ who turned out to be a ship-wreck. It is hard not to make excuses for abusers, but I am standing quietly on my own joy in knowing who I am. They haven’t destroyed that so much that I can’t recover! Psychiatric help, and medication, with a wonderful realisation that Jesus is stronger than all of them. I’ve found that a sense of victory as I regain ground little by little makes me truly me again. I won’t be leaving, as I have a wonderful church group who believes me, some of them are abuse sufferers too. Thank you so much for your information and shared experience. It has given me much joy to have what I thought I felt confirmed.

    • Natalie Hoffman

      “married my ‘dream boat’ who turned out to be a ship-wreck.” I forgot to add the fact that abuse targets almost always have a great sense of humor! Which is incredible in light of what they go through. Hang in there!

  2. Deborah J. Chadwick

    I was born Baptist. I stayed in a horribly abusive marriage to an atheist for 25 years all together. One of the reasons I stayed is because “God hates divorce”. My pastor paid me a visit one Saturday. When he knocked on the door, as always, my husband answered the door. I knew it was my pastor so I went to the door as well. He got in front of me and would not let my pastor and I talk. He even threatened him and kept pushing me away from the door. Finally, my pastor left. I had to sneak off to Church that Sunday. The sermon was for me and will never forget it. He said in this sermon, that God does not want you to live in fear or torment. Leaving an abusive marriage is not a sin. That surmon changed my life. 2 weeks later, when I got my paycheck, I left him after 19 years. I hide from him for 6 more years. I wasn’t going to divorce him for two reasons, I didn’t think God would approve, and I didn’t want to free him hurt someone else. 6 years later, I signed divorce papers. I was free from the bondage of that horrible marriage. It’s not divorce God disapproves of, it’s the need for divorcer.

    • Joe Pote

      Deborah, I am so thankful God delivered you from that abusive marriage!

      I completely agree that God does not hate divorce. Rather, He hates the broken vows that cause divorce to be necessary. In fact, that entire passage in Malachi 2 from which the “God hates divorce” phrase is erroneously misquoted, focuses on God hates treachery against a covenant partner.

      Here is a blog post where I discuss that passage in more detail: http://josephjpote.com/2014/08/biblical-word-play/

      May God continue to richly bless you!

  3. Sherri

    Actually, as to those insisting that a divorced and remarried person must divorce the second spouse and return to the first, this scenario is expressly forbidden by God as detestable / an abomination in Deut. 24: 2-4 – which, interestingly, divorce itself is not. The whole purpose of divorce in the first place is precisely to free and enable the woman to remarry! Obviously this can be misused, but in context… If people are going to quote the Bible (and especially enforce it on others!) they ought to take the trouble to read it first.

  4. Sherie

    My father was an abusive man and after my mother died became all the more abusive. His abuse destroyed me physically, emotionally and spiritually. As a Christian it was difficult to comprehend how could a father who went to church and prayed
    be so cruel and evil. No relatives wanted to intervene, no one wanted the burden of standing up for two kids. Finally when I left my abusive with the only escape I could see – a still legally married man. All my family shunned me,

    When I joined a church and shared my live-in relationship with a member, the next thing I know is she had told the pastor, who tried to show me how great God was to and forgives sinners. But any real help was not all forthcoming. As a single mother for years I was made to feel like an outcast, a sinner in the church. Finally, I moved away and yes I have found help with non-Christians which is sad in away. What Jesus has said about helping and not throwing stones at sinners is just not practiced in church.

  5. Kristin

    I could have written this just last week as I used this same idea when talking to friends about a friend of mine who just left her abusive husband. I am humbled to say I am the Good Samaritan in this story, the difference being that I am a believer. I have also just left my church after seeing my friend suffer at the hands of men and women like those described above.

    I think I will find solace here on this website. It is a hard thing to go against church leadership but, despite the losses to me and my family, seeing my friend free in Christ and away from her abusive husband has been worth it all.

    • Natalie Klejwa

      Good for you! Very encouraging! (And you are not alone in “bucking” a destructive system.)

  6. Elizabeth Ku

    So sad, but so very true. Why is it that in the interest of trying to uphold some untarnished image of marriage, we heap shame on the spouse who sacrificed the most for it?

  7. Brenda R

    There have been many things said within the church that are less than helpful. Divorce will not bring a closer relationship with God, You CAN’T remarry, God Hates Divorce. The list goes on. Maybe he does and maybe he doesn’t hate divorce. He certainly did do it. I am quite sure that he mourned the need of it, just as we that have gone through it have. For myself, I mourned more before the divorce than I did after.

    I have been sick for a while and not one person and called or inquired. I remind myself that if I were still married, I would not have anyone to comfort or help me. My experience was that it would only be worse. This woman that Cindy speaks of has a sickness caused by the church and false teachings or our Savior. What an awful burden she bares for a man who probably never loved her and certainly did not honor her. I am sure she has so much love to give.

    His yoke is easy and his burden is light!!! Many in the church produce just the opposite.

    • Natalie Klejwa

      I’m so sorry you’ve been ill and left to yourself. I pray you experience the presence of Christ in your sickness.

      God hates what causes divorce – but divorce itself is His provision – yes! Just because people twist and warp it and use it to selfish purpose, doesn’t make it a sin, in and of itself. Thank you for commenting here.

  8. Girl Gone North

    I’ve never been so deeply wounded by anyone as by the most devout of so-called Christians. It is truly sad that this is true of so many people. Sadly, it isn’t just women, though we do seem to be a favourite target.

  9. Brenda R

    I’m not sure where you were going in your second paragraph. Are you referring to the abusive spouse who walked away? I’m not sure why one would walk away from a second marriage to return to the first. What’s behind is behind. My xh talks a good game, but “repented”…..I don’t think so. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. That’s not exactly Biblical…..or is it?

    It would be a great blessing for an abusive spouse to walk away and even file for divorce, but that rarely happens. That is not an abusers style. If one form of abuse doesn’t work, they move on to another. The abuse can even be worse after the victim/target of abuse has left the abuser.

    • 6 arrows


      I’m not sure what Laura meant in her comment, but, unfortunately, I have heard of the notion that people in remarriages following what’s been labeled as unbiblical divorce from their first spouse are committing ongoing adultery, being in second marriages, and they are urged to divorce the second spouse, being told that that is the only way to repent of the situation.

      That is false teaching.

      I don’t remember where I first heard of that practice (or teaching), but if you google “divorcing second spouse to remarry first spouse,” you’ll find at least one site (I won’t link to it) that goes so far as to say that second marriages in cases like these constitute continuous adultery. Therefore, in the author’s opinion, a person who dies while in such a marriage dies a practicing adulterer, which further demonstrates, in the writer’s “logic,” that the remarried person in question never had genuine salvific faith and consequently goes to hell.

      The author has horrifically twisted scripture to come to that conclusion, and, tragically, there are people who are seriously misled by this false doctrine.

      And that, I’m sorry to say, could likely be the answer to your wondering why a person would walk away from a second marriage to return to the first. They’ve basically been told that they’re not right with God, and, in the extreme example I cited above, that there are eternal consequences for not divorcing the second spouse.

      Horrible, that there are teachings out there on divorce and remarriage that are so rife with error, or at the very least, promoting half-truths in some cases.

      Absolutely irresponsible, those who would teach such things.

      • Cindy Burrell

        I’m going to name one such organization: Covenant Keepers. Their contention is that marriage is a lifelong covenant. Of course, it should be. However, as can be seen repeatedly in Scripture, covenants can be made, kept and broken. A covenant is only kept when all parties to the covenant keep it. The covenant and the vows associated with it are sacred. A party cannot repeatedly violate the tenets of a covenant and insist that it is being kept or that others keep it while that one party chooses not to.

        I met a woman whose husband had repeatedly committed adultery during their marriage. He then divorced her and married another woman. This poor woman had been taught that she was obligated to remain single and wait for her former, adulterous husband to divorce his present wife; that she could be married only to him. I don’t know that I have ever met a more depressed, despondent, spiritually bound woman than her.

        Their doctrine was one of guilt, shame and bondage. I shared with her what the Spirit told me to say, “Jesus wants you to be free.”

  10. laura

    the more one goes through this life, the more one recognizes that woman should depend on God’s word…..NOT on a spouse to do right….or wrong….

    I’ve heard of people who “divorce” and then like 10 years later after a second marriage…….they finally “get it”…… The bible. They understand that they were sinners. They break off the second marriage and return to first spouse…..but of course the BAD spouse has to have “repented” and be sincere and truthful about it.

    In bad marriages it is actually a blessing for a woman to be left with the children while the husband departs to his ungodly world of sin…… that way the woman doesn’t have to battle with govt’s etc.

  11. Jen Grice

    So wonderfully put, Natalie. Exactly what seems to happen. We need more Christians in the trenches with victims. More training in the Church.

  12. Ann Thelen

    Wow. This article and the comments are very helpful for thinking through things that have vexed me for a long time. Thank you.

  13. Brenda R

    This is amazing. It is the good Samaritan of scripture. I love it and you for writing it. God is truly using you and are a gift to many.

  14. Leah

    This story is very much my life. Thank you so much for sharing, it was just what I needed to hear today!

  15. Joe Pote

    Excellent allegory!

    And too true…all too true…all too often…

    Thank you for seeing and sharing God’s heart of love and redemption toward His children who are enslaved in a covenant that has become abusive bondage.

  16. Julie Whitmire

    This hit close to home. I was kicked out of the church where I was the secretary/worship leader and my husband was the pastor because they said that “God hates divorce” and that I needed to stay with him at any price. I almost killed myself, because that was the only way I could see to get out of the situation. However, by God’s grace, I got out with the help of my family and then got some good counseling. The church ended up sending me a letter telling me that they were handing me over to satan and I was not welcome to darken the door of their building again because I filed for divorce. Thankfully, the Lord rescued me and helped me to see the truth of the situation. I have had to deal with deep scars from my past, but the Lord has sustained me.

    • Natalie Klejwa

      Your story of rejection and pain is all too common, Julie. Christ told His disciples (Mark 6:11) to shake the dust off their feet when leaving a city that rejected them. You do that. Shake the dust off your feet and find a healthy place to worship.

    • Cindy Burrell

      Julie, I am so grieved to read your story. You are definitely not alone. What you experienced is all too common.

      And just so you know, God does not hate divorce, He hated “putting away,” where men were sending away their wives without a writ of divorce (known as a “get”) to take other wives. (In Malachi 2, the prophet identifies the women as “the daughters of a foreign god” – idol worshipers, whom the men were marrying.) Hence the men were committing polygamy and refusing to free the wives “of their youth” to remarry. God calls it treachery.

      Women lacking a “get” were known as “agunot,” which means “chained wife.” The provision of a get also obliges the husband to return the woman’s dowry and provide financial support for an established period of time, as agreed upon in the “ketubah,” the marriage contract.

      Check out Young’s Literal Translation of Malachi 2 for a clearer image of God’s heart of condemnation toward men who failed to take care of their brides. Furthermore, anywhere you see the word “divorce” in the NT, it is actually the term “put away.” The word “divorce” as a noun does not exist in Scripture.

      At the end of the day, God does not hate divorce. He provided divorce specifically to protect women (Deuteronomy 24), and He would never provide sin as a remedy for sin.

      I’m blessed to know that God has made a way for you – as He has for so many of us.

      • Natalie Klejwa

        Thank you for that very clear explanation! I wish the church, in general, was more literate about divorce in the Bible. It would do a world of good both for victims as well as unrepentant victimizers. Of course. That’s what God intended.

  17. Jeri DeGroot

    Once again, you get it. Stay strong. I love you. Jeri

  18. Cary Schwartz

    My husband is a pastor. More than once we have offered/ provided safe haven for abused wives. We completely believe in the scriptural principle of a wife’s submission to her husband. My counsel to an abused wife is pretty much opposite to what I would say to the wife of a reasonable man. Abusers never have a reason to change until their wives change the status quo.

  19. lauralee

    this is an excellent piece….you go girl!!! tell the truth….I so relate to this! I try to educate people, but, most do not want to know, they love to stay in their chosen ignorance of what is actually happening in the pews….may our voices become united across the terrain of Churchianity.

  20. sarah

    You nailed it. Wish the Church could shed the scales of self-deception and see the truth plainly. Abuse is real. Abusers are far too often enabled by psuedo-biblical rhetoric that denies the dignity of the people who exist in abusive situations. Especially for those of us who claim to be pro-life – we advocate for helpless, voiceless victims because we believe they carry the image of God in their very person – and are worth defending. But an abused spouse? Do they need defending? Do they not also have dignity and worth and carry the image of God? And yet we abandon them and tell them all sorts of silly things like, ‘try harder’ ‘love and respect’ etc. We think we can teach them how to make it work. But abuse is not a marriage issue. Abuse is a violation of multiple commands and principles – and in marriage it is abandonment of commitment to marriage vows.

    • Natalie Klejwa

      Yes. The problem is that nobody can see some of the worst types of psychological abuse until it is too late, and there is irreparable damage to women and children. Also, the women are not sinless, and religious people can’t see past that. It’s like, to be defended or helped, you have to be sinless yourself. Otherwise you deserve everything you get. You can’t stand up for yourself, or you are “overbearing” and “wearing the pants.” You can’t tell the truth, or you are a gossip and a slanderer. You can’t say “No more” or you aren’t humble. You have to wait to be rescued – but that never happens. So ultimately, you have to decide to live or die. And if you die, you’re dead. If you decide to live, you will lose everything at first, but then God can give your life back to you. He didn’t intend for us to belong to the enemy.

      • Felicia

        Good gracious you’re right.

      • Sarah

        So true – it’s easy to defend an unborn baby, but much messier with a grown up woman. After all, shouldn’t she take that plank out of her own eye first?

      • Cindy Burrell

        It is profoundly ironic that the woman who cries out to say she is drowning is tossed an anchor of condemnation rather than a life preserver while the abuser feigns ignorance and goes on his merry way with the church’s blessing. How is it that the abuser’s toxic,terrifying attitudes and behaviors slide so easily under the Christian radar? The man who can destroy his wife with a word or a cold stare somehow avoids any scrutiny while his suffering bride is judged and rejected for her failure to submit…

        This dynamic is both tragic and bizarre. The church not only enables abuse, it actually participates.

        • Natalie Klejwa

          The church absolutely DOES participate. I think a lot of us would say that while our abusive spouse’s betrayal was horrible, our church’s betrayal on top of everything was even more horrific. It feels like rejection from God. Not that it is, but many of us associated church and our church leaders with God, so when they threw us under the bus, we had to separate them from God and realize they were the Pharisees in the story. Not Christ. That’s why I say it is a satanic distortion that does deep damage on many levels. Abusing women and children in God’s name? Reprehensible.

          • Joe Pote

            Yes…all too often, the church does actively participate in the abuse.

            Some of it can be explained as simple ignorance…well intentioned people doing things all wrong, because they don’t understand the nature of abuse.

            I agree with you, though, Natalie, that much of it is a satanic distortion…a distortion that makes an idol of the institution of marriage…and that frames discussions of biblical marriage in very legalistic terms rather than pursuing God’s heart of justice, mercy, and liberty in Christ.

            Thank you for sharing!

            • Natalie Klejwa

              True, that some are well intentioned, and some are more gentle than others in their invalidation. However, in my experience, even these well-intentioned folks often kick back in varying degrees if anyone tries to educate them about the nature of covert abuse. It really is a blindness that only a Holy Spirit-given openness and humility can clear away. I checked out your website a bit this morning, so I know we are coming from the same place. Thank you for what you are doing to help normalize divorce in cases of abuse. I really do believe that if more Christians recognized God’s PROVISION of divorce in cases of abuse, there would be fewer abusive individuals hiding in churches, wreaking havoc on God’s people. Lies destroy. Truth sets us free. And what is marital abuse, if not one massive lie?

  21. MeganC

    I love it. Brilliant. Thank you, Natalie.

  22. Sheila Gregoire

    Just beautiful, Natalie, and unfortunately, so, so true.

  23. Janet Billson

    It breaks my heart that this is true. May we as the Church, the Body of Christ, be the hands and feet of Jesus, who did not cast a stone at the wayward woman, but instead had compassion and love for her. May we learn to listen with compassion, and even more so, to ask genuine questions, seeking the truth from those who are hurting, without judgment and a know-it-all attitude. We DON’T know it all! Only God can see the heart.

  24. Sherry

    Thank you for this! This is my story. Some of my non-believing friends ministered to me more effectively than my Christian friends, most of whom said little to nothing at all.

    • Natalie Klejwa

      It is a tragic, kingdom-shattering reality. Satan just loves it, too. It’s one of his best games.



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